The Vikings plundered all over Ireland a thousand years ago, but they left Valentia Island untouched. It is preserved, with pre-Christian remains, a famous grotto, and the footsteps of ancient life forms.
What to See and Do
We cruised the island by car, discovering the huge slate quarry on the north side. From here you can see the outlines of The Blasket Islands and Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula. A step away is the tetrapod exhibit - fossil remains of footsteps taken by the first four-legged mammal, estimated to be over 365 million years old. How many other undiscovered footsteps dot the massive rock formations of Ireland?
The monks living on Skellig Michael Island intended perhaps to erase their own footsteps in this life. But the they have left an important imprint, and the monastery ruins tell us the story. The Skellig Centre fleshes out the lives of these monks who survived for 1,400 years a virtually uninhabitable rock 8 miles of the coast. Take a boat to Skellig Michael to the monastery ruins or a cruise tour around Valentia Island.
Valentia Island was the site of the first transatlantic phone line, stretching through the ocean to Newfoundland. Visit the transatlantic cable stations to learn about this history.
Geokaun Mountain and the Fogher Cliffs are Valentia's highest point and a good place for a hike.
Where to Eat and Drink
The Skellig Centre has Fionans Kitchen restaurant, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Portmagee village. Pubs and restaurants in Chapeltown and Knightstown, the island's two towns. Look also for handwritten signs for "Homemade Bakeing" (sic) pointing the way to local delights on The Ring Line Road.
Where to Sleep
B&Bs in Chapeltown and waterside hotels in Portmagee and Knightstown.
How to get there
Located on the Ring of Kerry Drive on Iveragh Peninsula.
There are two ways to get to Valentia Island: by bridge or by sea. Either way, you can take your car. Drive across the free bridge from Portmagee. Or drive onto the car ferry from Renard Point to Knightstown. Valentia Car Ferry runs a continuous shuttle service every 10 minutes, operating April-September, Monday - Saturday 8:15AM-10PM and Sunday 9AM-10PM. Fares: cars - single 5 euro, return 8 euro. Cyclists - single 2 euro, return 3 euro. Pedestrians - single 1.50 euro, return 2 euro.
From Tralee, take N70 Ring of Kerry drive. If by sea, Renard Point is just west of the town of Cahirciveen. If by bridge, take N70 Ring of Kerry drive, then Skellig Ring drive to Portmagee.
From Kenmare, take N70 Ring of Kerry drive to Waterville. After you go through Waterville, turn onto the R567 west Skellig Ring drive. Follow signs for town of Ballinskelligs and continue on to Portmagee.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
When to go
April through September, when the weather is finer and the days longer.
Written by Liz O' Malley - Summer of Travel 2007